Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tech Marketing Budgets Up for 2012

Digital, content marketing and lead-generation top priorities. More positive indicators for economic recovery

According to new findings from IDG Research Services, two-thirds of the technology marketers surveyed said they expect their budgets to rise next year with digital programs capturing half the spend. Live events are expected to garner one fourth (24%) of tech marketers’ budgets with the remainder spread among print, broadcast and other media.
Our experience is that tech marketers tend to pave the way for marketers in other industries who have long sales cycles and who need consistent, high-value touch points with multiple decision makers.

What are tech marketers’ goals this year? Lead generation topped all digital budget categories with almost 27 percent, followed by display/banner at just under 20 percent and search at almost 19 percent.

What is the most important campaign metric? Researchers say click-through rate is the most important factor in campaign success with cost-per-engagement and interaction rate almost equal in importance.

Top 5 spending priorities? Content marketing, which includes white papers, case studies, videos, custom websites, video and white papers, is among tech marketers’ top five spending priorities for 2012:

--71 percent will be investing in collateral
--61 percent will be investing in webcasts/virtual events
--59 percent will be investing in videos
--55 percent will be investing in research
--54 percent will be investing in content marketing or custom programs

Our Take? Tech marketers are historically a good bellwether for any mature industry with a long sales cycle. We expect those in financial services, pharmaceutical, legal, insurance and other professional services to follow tech marketers’ lead.

NOTE: When asked about the biggest challenges in producing marketing content, approximately two-thirds of the marketers indicate they will outsource one or more projects involving content creation, creative development, ad unit creation and online production/services.

More signs that modest economic rebound is likely to stick

Here’s some more optimistic news that came across our radar this week:

-- The National Federation of Independent Businesses said its index of
small business attitudes rose in November for third straight month—7 percent more small business plan to expand their payrolls in the next three months, than plan to cut them.

-- The number of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs hit a 2-year high: The Labor Department reported this week that a record 1.9 million workers resigned their jobs in October.

-- Fed policy makers this week said they plan to keep short term interest rates near zero through 2013. Retail sales up for sixth consecutive month and gas prices down or holding steady in most parts of the country

One millionth mobile app just released

Apps shrink the programs that were once available only on a desktop PC and make them usable on smartphones and mobile devices. Experts say the pace of new app development dwarfs every other kind of media—about 15,000 new ways a week to check stock trades, restaurant reviews, sports scores, directions, traffic, videos, articles and shop. Back in 2008 there were less than 10,000 apps available according to Mobilewalla. Five years ago, building an app for a phone meant going through the carrier, dealing with hardware, QA issues and inconsistent user experience. Now there’s a world of more powerful devices, higher quality networks and high-resolution cameras.

Our Take: More and more of your target customers are unchaining themselves from their desks and you better be mobile optimized—not only your creative, but your strategic mindset as well.

Consumers and businesses ARE spending money—they’re just being pickier about how they spend it and with whom they spend it on. Your target customers have never been better armed with purchase information and nothing sells itself anymore. No matter how talented your sales team; you won’t win in the new post-recession landscape without great marketing and customer support to back up your promises.

Happy Holiday from all of us here at HB Publishing & Marketing Company. Looking forward to working with you again in 2012. Let’s make it a great year.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Be Ready for Surge in Pent Up Demand

While we’re seeing some encouraging signs on the Euro zone crisis, the U.S. jobless front and the U.S. financial markets, these are fickle indicators which should be taken with a grain of salt. If you’re a business owner, B2B marketer or media owner, we have some more solid signs of optimism for you to sink you teeth into.

Car sales surge

Auto sales in the United States climbed 14 percent in November as lower gas prices and a wider availability of Japanese models helped the industry achieve its highest selling rate in more than two years, automakers and analysts said last week. Chrysler was up 45 percent over November of last year, Ford was up 13 percent and GM 7 percent.

Cyber Monday

Meanwhile, ComScore, reported that online shoppers spent $1.3 billion on Cyber Monday, a 22 percent increase from last year, at that time the biggest online shopping day of the year. IBM Benchmark said online spending had climbed 33 percent. What’s more, a National Retail Federation survey found that 14 percent of shoppers said they would use mobile devices to shop, up from 7 percent last year.

Technology spending for business in midst of fastest transition ever
The International Data Corporation, whose technology analysis and predictions influence a lot of corporate purchases, foresees the creation of a new high-technology industry in the convergence of mobile devices, social networking, and cloud-based computing and data storage. As a result, the company says in a new study, many industry giants will scramble to sustain relevance, and some upstarts will achieve leadership positions or be purchased.

Frank Gens, IDC’s chief analyst, who led the study, said, “The incumbents are facing a huge transition.”

Spending on the new technologies will reach nearly $700 billion, or about 20 percent of the $3.5 trillion in hardware, software, and services spent on information technology worldwide, IDC said. What’s more, researchers said spending on the new technologies is growing six times that of traditional computer servers and personal computers, and by 2020 will be 80 percent industry growth.

If the IDC predictions hold true, the tech industry could be undergoing its fastest-ever transition. Earlier transitions, like the move from mainframe and mini computers to personal computers and client-server technologies, led to the rise of giants like Oracle and Microsoft, and the downfall of older stalwarts, like Digital Equipment Corp. and Wang Laboratories.

This time will be no different, Mr. Gens said, adding: “Hewlett-Packard will be challenged. Microsoft, Intel, SAP, RIM, Oracle, Cisco, Dell – they are all facing the next transition, competing to be around in 2020. At least a third will fade away.”

Mobile devices

Mobile devices, which earlier this year outshipped personal computers worldwide, will in 2012 generate more revenue than PCs for the first time, IDC said. Shipments of mobile devices will outstrip PCs by two to one, and 85 million mobile applications, or apps, will be downloaded. More money will be spent on mobile data networks than on networks tethered by lines.

The rapid transition to mobile, driven by an explosion of tablet computers, will challenge both traditional computer software companies like Microsoft and beneficiaries like Apple, which is seeing the dominance of its iOS operating system challenged by the open source Android operating system developed by Google.
“By 2013 we’ll know who the leaders are,” Mr. Gens said. “Android will be there, iOS will be there – will Windows 8 put Microsoft there? By the end of the year we’ll know if putting a PC operating system onto mobile was a good idea.”

The increasing number of people and machines online will additionally create an explosion of digital data. IDC said that the amount of data stored in 2012 would increase 48 percent from 2011, to 2.7 zetabytes, or 2.7 billion terabytes. By 2015, the firm said, the total will be 8 zetabytes.

Recommended Reading

No matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re in, we’d like to recommend David Brooks’ recent NY Times editorial series Life Reports.

You can draw your own conclusions, of course, but as marketers and innovators, two things really grabbed us. First, when people take stock of their lives, most regret the risks they DIDN’T take, not the ones they did take. Second, you should measure people by the progress they make in their lives, not by the natural talents they possess.

OUR TAKE: Now if the time of year when many of us reflect on where our businesses and personal lives stand relative to where we thought they’d be a year ago. It can be a gut-wrenching exercise. Just remember that no matter how you measure it, make sure you’re using the right metrics to make your assessment. Also, take time to reflect on everything that DID go right, not just things that came up short.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks for Some Hopeful Signs for Retailers, Jobs, Factory Output and Home Construction

Don't underestimate the power of a Black Friday shopper

So Americans are getting soft, you say? We’re getting, fat, lazy, unmotivated as the rest of the world passes us by, you say? Well you haven’t seen Americans shop on Black Friday. If there’s one thing we don’t need to outsource it’s the ability to find a deal. Before you choke on that turkey wishbone in laughter, think about how the web is transforming the shopping experience. Consumers have never been better armed with comparative pricing information, specs, sizes, colors and where to find the best deals. Retailers have to keep opening earlier, competing with both online and bricks-and-mortar sellers and motivate their employees to work, longer, harder and faster when they’d normally be home (sleeping) with their families.

OUR TAKE? When properly motivated, Americans can do anything they set their minds to with resourcefulness, determination and stamina—kind of like a nation of small business owners.

Macroeconomic indicators

For the holiday season-to-date, consumers have spent $9.7 billion online -- marking a year-over-year growth rate of 14 percent, according to new comScore data. During the first 20 days of the season -- which began on November 1--daily online spending peaked on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at $688 million, comScore reports.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign that layoffs are easing and hiring might pick up--it was the fourth decline in five weeks. Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report said that builders started slightly fewer homes in October, but submitted plans for a wave of apartments, a mixed sign for the struggling housing market.

A rebound in manufacturing could lead to more hiring. Factory output grew in October for the fourth straight month, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday. Production of trucks, electronics and business equipment all rose, and building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose nearly 11 percent. The increase was spurred by a 30 percent increase in apartment permits, which reached its highest level in three years. Need more? Construction starts of single-family homes, which make up about 70 percent of residential home construction, rose nearly 4 percent last month.

While new homes account for just 20 percent of the overall home market, they have an outsize impact on the economy--each home creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Online video can boost your business

Still not sure if online video is worth it? Check out these new findings from

-- Nearly 80 percent of U.S. Internet users –180million+ people—will view online video over the course of the month

-- The typical Internet viewer watches almost 20 hours of online video per month
--The average online video consumed is a full 5 minutes long
--The most watched videos add value by “teaching viewers something or covering a topic they care about,” says comScore.

What B2B marketers hope to accomplish with social media tools

According to new data from Chief Marketer’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Survey it is:

-- Drive traffic to websites (66%)
-- Generate sales or leads (48%)
-- Address company fans (47%)

Yes, times are tough. But give thanks this time of year that you have the brains, the team, the family support and the resources to figure out ways to get through it. You will. And we’ll all be stronger for it.
Happy Thanksgiving. HB


Friday, November 11, 2011

Job openings at highest level since August 2008

‘Quit rate’ at 3-year high and 7 out of 10 employed workers ‘mailing it in’ at best

OK people. It’s over. The recession is officially two years in the rear-view window. Let’s get back to business already. You’re not going to get an official memo from the Government saying it’s safe to start hiring people again, or it's OK to invest in capital improvements you so badly need, or to build out your marketing platform so you can get actual qualified leads.Remember those? What else do you need to make a decision?

But what about the euro zone crisis, you say? Don’t waste your time watching the daily gyrations of the financial markets. Check your portfolio one every three months or so, but don’t use stocks as a proxy for the state of business conditions or the economy. It’s a glorified casino driven by program traders, hedge funds and short-term speculators.

People are working, and more importantly quitting for better jobs

Here’s what’s important: New claims for jobless benefits in the United States fell last week to their lowest level since early April and the country’s trade deficit unexpectedly shrank in September, pointing to a slight improvement in the sluggish economy. More encouraging was a Labor Department report showed a strong increase in the “quit rate” -- the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs for a new one rose 5 percent in September and hit its highest level since November 2008. It means that workers are finally more confident that they can find new work if they are unhappy with their current positions—a recent Gallup Survey found the 71 percent of U.S. workers are “not engaged” in their jobs or “actively disengaged” form their work.

Greater turnover in the job market now means more opportunities for the 14 million unemployed or under-employed workers seeking to get back into the workforce.

Out Take: Stop focusing on the unemployment rate. It’s stuck like a rusty wheel at 9 percent and doesn’t accurately reflect what companies need to grow and thrive. We think a better measure is the number of job seeker to job openings. That ratio is down to 4.1, from a peak of 6.9 workers per opening in the horrible summer of July 2009.

If you’ve got a job. Now’s the time to find a better one. If you’re looking for work, make sure you don’t settle for the dregs left behind by a former employee burned out by the recession. Find something that matters—and pays you commensurately for your skill. If you have a company, make sure you do whatever it takes to keep your best people happy and by all means, make sure you’re capturing all the knowledge, contacts and processes they have stored in their brains and personal hard drives.

There’s going to be a “brain drain” of epic proportions soon—and you won’t get a memo letting you know when it’s officially started. If you’re not careful, all your organizational “smarts” could go walking out the door on a moment’s notice.

Where smart marketing comes in

That’s also where smart marketing comes in. It’s not just to raise your brand and generate qualified leads—it’s a time-tested way to keep your name in front of the best talent and vendors in your industry. When you cut back on your marketing, you not only choke off your lead funnel and brand awareness. You make yourself conspicuously absent relative to your competitors and lose opportunities to capture great talent. That’s right, think about all the great people who just might have spent one too many late nights at the office without feeling adequately appreciate by their bosses. If you’re not top of mind with them, they’re certainly not top of mind with you.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Thriving in a SOCIAL ‘Vucu’ Climate for B2B Marketers

Forget the markets and employment numbers. 10-year forecast might be easier to make than a one-week call

“I could probably make a 10-year forecast easier than a one-week forecast,” quipped Rod Smythe, Chief Investment Strategist of Riverfront Investment Group at a high-end wealth management conference we attended on Tuesday.

Whether it’s the financial markets, the job market, pro sports or even the weather, we’re in an incredibly volatile time and this era of uncertainty is wreaking havoc on our collective psychology. Smart B2B marketers will stay focused on their long-term goals without panicking or chasing the next fad. Just be ready for a lot more VUCU. We’ll get to what vucu means in a minute. In the long run, we’ll get through this and in many respects we’re already there. Say what?

Just two weeks ago, I was swimming in Long Island Sound on an unseasonably warm October day. Stocks were plummeting as the U.S. seemed destined for a double-dip recession and Greece and other Euro Zone players were headed for a sure default on their debt.

How quickly things change. Monday I was trick-or-treating in the snow with my kids here in the Northeast. Stocks are back to break-even for the year and have risen significantly as economic data suggests we’ve fended off the threat of a Euro Zone meltdown, a double-dip recession, and stronger than expected corporate earnings. China’s hyper-growth economy (and inflation risk) slowing and last week’s GDP results showing 2.5 percent annualized growth in Q3, our strongest effort in a year.

So, while personal income is falling, consumer spending has risen at a 2.4 percent annual rate–three times faster than Q3 according to the latest government stats. Despite a persistently high percent unemployment rate, confidence may be returning. Credit card debt is inching higher, sales of cars and major appliances are rebounding and consumers are hording a lot less in their savings accounts (again).

Living in a vucu world

We’re living in a “vucu” world, said Dana Anderson, a Kraft Foods marketing VP who was widely quoted at last week’s Association of National Advertisers conference in Phoenix which attracted a record 1,700 attendees.

Not familiar with Vucu? It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous which is going to require a new set of skills she said. Marketers and advertisers will need learn from experimentation, and be open to intuitive, rather than rational solutions to problems.

OUR TAKE: Amen to that, but much easier said than done. True, tough times call for bold steps and recessions have historically fostered some of the greatest innovations. But, when millions of salaried media workers are scared to death of losing their jobs, the risk of a failure pinned to one’s performance review is a stronger deterrent than usual.

Business spending hot, hiring is not

According to the Commerce Department, business increased their capital investments at a 17.4 percent annual rate. Economists say business spending has been strong throughout the recession, an optimistic sign because investment in factories, offices, equipment and software is often a run up to hiring.

And from a micro-perspective, the office building in which we work was less than half full when we moved in two years ago. It’s 100 percent occupied now. That’s right. No vacancy!

Is technology replacing humans in the workforce?

According to the authors of “Race Against the Machine” a just-released book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee is a scary deep-dive into the job fallout from advances in technology. The authors, who are directors at the MIT Center for Digital Business, warn that automation has picked up in recent years because of a combination of technologies including robotics, numerically controlled machines, computerized inventory control, voice recognition and online commerce.

Since the “official” end of the recession in mid 2009, payrolls have been flat, but corporate spending on equipment and software has increased 26 percent, they note. According to Factset Research, the productivity gains from technology seem to be falling to the bottom line. The S&P 500 companies are expected to report record profits—nearly $1 trillion--and the corporate profit share of the U.S. economy is at a record high when millions are out of work or facing foreclosure of their homes.

It’s true that hundreds of thousands of sales and marketing jobs have been lost or impacted by technology, but Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue companies still need humans for many higher level tasks requiring intuition, creativity and solutions. Leave narrow, literal minded assigned tasks to the computers they advise and smart humans—including B2B marketers—will learn how to create a “partnership” with technology.

SOCIAL, and we don’t mean Facebook

Marc Benioff, founder of the popular cloud-based sales CRM solution,, frequently says we’re in the midst of an IT revolution based on the acronym SOCIAL—S is for speed; O is for open; C is for collaboration; I is for individuals who can now instantly reach around the world to network and collaborate; A is for alignment (all your ships moving in the same direction) and L is leadership, both top down and bottom up.

In a New York Times Op-Ed piece, Thomas Friedman, quotes LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner on the power of the IT revolution: “It makes it easier and cheaper for anyone anywhere to be an entrepreneur and have access to all the infrastructure of innovation.”

OUR TAKE: Whether you’re a sole practitioner, a 10-person regional outfit or a Fortune 500 powerhouse, you need to have everyone—and every machine—at your organization aligned and in a nimble entrepreneurial mindset. Make some mistakes. Make ‘em hard and fast and see how quickly you can learn from those mistakes.
That’s how we’ll get out of this economic first gear and great B2B marketing is what’ll get us into the overdrive phase.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Glimmers of Hope Within Tepid 2012 U.S. Ad Forecast

Tech spending holding steady despite gloomy economic indicators. Digital now on par with TV. Display and email still working. Is mobile cutting into paid search revenue?

While forecast after forecast comes into our inboxes projecting another humdrum year on the ad spending front, we thought we’d point out a few glimmers of hope.

2012 is a quadrennial Olympic and election year. That means we get plenty of juice from the networks sports media and political campaigns regardless of which media properties you own.

Digital media—which includes online, social and mobile--has approached parity with TV as the most important medium among agency executives, according to the latest quarterly survey from Strata, a media data processing provider. Asked what their No. 1 medium of choice was during the third quarter of 2011, more than one third (34%) of agency executives cited digital, only one point lower than the 35 percent who cited local TV. According to Media Post’s Joe Mandese, that's the closest point of parity in the three years since Strata began querying its agency clients on the dominance of various media in their workflow and budgeting, and represents a 43 percent leap from the second quarter of 2011.

The findings, which are based on a segment of more than 900 agencies. In fact, the survey indicates that digital may be at the tipping point of overtaking all other media in terms of importance, especially if the economy becomes any more unstable. While the third-quarter survey indicated that advertising budgets remain relatively stable and continue to grow overall, the agency respondents said print (52%) and local TV (24%) are the media most likely to take a hit by ad spending cuts.

“The economy is forcing many advertisers to look for more affordable ad avenues--i.e., digital and radio,” said Strata President John Shelton. However, Only 56 percent of the agency execs said they believe their clients “understand the value” in digital, while 44 percent said they don’t see the value.

Corporate profits, spending decoupled from rest of economy

As expected, last week’s post “Financial Markets Decoupled from Economy” got us a lot of attention and some naysayers, but IBM’s strong quarterly profit reported earlier this week gives more credence to our argument. Corporations continue to spend on information technology despite the lousy economy. They’re hording cash and investing in systems, infrastructure and efficiency—not in people—to cut costs and get more productivity out of the headcount they already have in place. The IBM’s of the world sell to big corporate customers, not to Main Street, so that’s why they can report solid profits at a time when the jobless rate is still so painfully high.

Lots of analysts consider IBM a bellwether of IT spending because it’s the largest supplier of computing technology, hardware, software and services to corporations. IBM’s results mirror what we reported to you from Oracle, and others corporate technology players over the summer.

Our take: In a tough market, there’s always a flight to quality. Smart media owners will find a way to pry that cash out of CMOs’ and their agencies, tightly wadded fists by stressing audience quality, editorial integrity and measurable ROI.

Display advertising shifts from direct response to branding media

Most media buyers and some media owners still think clicks, impressions and conversions are the way to measure performance of online display advertising, but researchers say the more important metrics often point to return on ad spend, online searches for brand names, product recall, and sales.

"The Digital Advertising 2011: A Portrait of Conflict" study released by Collective finds that 57 percent of agencies believe the majority of their display objectives are to build the brand, yet only 11 percent cite ad creative as critical to the campaign's success. Still, three in five (60%) of agencies cite brand recall and intent to purchase as the most important measures of online success. However, clicks and conversions remain the key criteria agencies say they use to evaluate media, according to the Collective study.

OUR TAKE: Through a combination of laziness, arrogance and feeling overwhelmed, agencies tend to fall back on McMetrics, things that are easiest to measure rather than business-building metrics that are harder to measure, but derive real value from a campaign.

Is mobile cutting into paid search ad revenue?

More searches being done on mobile phones where people are less click on ads and the ads cost less. Even mighty Google received 5 percent less for clicks in the second quarter of this year, vs. 2nd quarter last year according to a New York Times report late last week. E-mail remains most popular way to market events. Social media, the least effective.

On average, business use 5.5 different methods to promote their events and email remains the most popular, according to a new eBook released jointly by HubSpot and Constant Contact. More than 70 percent of marketers surveyed by the two aforementioned organizations cited email, followed by word-of-mouth (65%). Social media was deemed least effective.

Just as in a sluggish stock market, there’s always a flight to advertising quality in a tight economy. Savvy marketers and media owners know they have to keep their minds open to new ways of reaching—and measuring—their target consumers, but they should ignore time-tested legacy media such as display, print, broadcast and live events. Those legacy media have been around longer, but they’re still improving at the same rate, if not faster, than some of the new kids on the block.

Resist the urge to go “EITHER/OR” in your media planning process. Just go with a balanced portfolio of media options and make sure you’re always using best in class. Not cheapest in class.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Financial Markets Decoupled from Economy, Ad Sentiment

Ad spend continues modest increase thanks to automotive and financial services. Online video most popular on tablet vs. smartphone or social networks

The financial markets have never been a reliable indicator of true economic growth (or lack thereof). They’re a better indicator of investor psychology than they are of underlying corporate earnings or consumer spending intentions and right now uncertainty is trumping confidence. If nothing else, we’re officially in a global economy so when a Euro Zone country gets overextended or when China overheats or plays games with its currency, we all suffer. Hey, our little banking crisis in 2008 wreaked as much havoc overseas as it did at home. Payback’s a bitch.

The markets usually tank in October anyway—check your history books for that month in 2008, 1987, 1929 etc. True, most indices are close to 20 percent off their recent highs in April—a technical bear market signal, but they’re about a percentage point or two off where they were a year ago. We don’t remember things being too rosy last October either.

Right now things are very uncertain, but it doesn’t mean they’re horrible. Housing prices remain depressed, but their holding steady. The jobless rate is way too high for an alleged recover, but slightly improving. U.S. vehicle sales rose almost 10 percent in September to their highest level in five months. More impressive, the Big 3 Detroit automakers significantly outgained Toyota and Honda. Even in our auto-dependent nation, folks aren’t going to shell out tens of thousands for a new vehicle unless they’re pretty sure they can finance the purchase. Perhaps more telling, bank stocks are taking a beating right now but financial services companies are still leading the charge on the ad spending front.

Ad spending up modestly

For the first half of 2011, Nielsen research found that U.S. advertisers overall spent 5 percent more in the first half of 2011 than they did in the first half of 2010 and the categories showing the greatest increase were financially-oriented, said Randall Beard, the global head of advertising solutions for Nielsen. Auto insurance increased 25 percent from first half of 2011, bank services increased 24 percent and financial investment services increased 19 percent. “People are very interested in saving money, getting the best possible deals and making sure their financial situation is as strong as it can be,” Beard told the New York Times in a recent article about his organization’s findings.

Kantar Media’s latest research found that ad spending in major media in the United States in the second quarter rose 2.8 percent from the same period a year ago. The percentage gain was the sixth quarterly increase in a row since the end of 2009, according to Kantar Media data, but it is the smallest of the six. For the first six months of the year, Kantar estimates ad spending was up 3.2 percent from the first half of last year.

The numbers for the second quarter “are painting a mixed picture,” Jon Swallen, senior vice president for research at the Kantar Media North America unit of Kantar Media, said in a statement. On one hand, “a majority of media types actually improved their performance” from the first quarter to the second quarter, Mr. Swallen said. On the other hand, spending growth among the 100 biggest advertisers “stalled” in the second quarter, he added, “and the ad market became more dependent on the comparatively smaller budgets of midsized advertisers as the main source of growth.”

Tracked by media type: Internet advertising was up 10.4 percent and magazines were up 2.9 percent; television, up 1.8 percent; and radio, up 1.4 percent.
Marketers respecting consumers

We popped in last week at the Online Media & Marketing Association conference in New York and were impressed by the attendance levels, the quality of the questions during Q&A sessions and the overall positive buzz and energy despite the gloomy economy. As MediaPost editor Joe Mandese noted, “Marketers are growing up. We came out of an era in which marketers didn’t respect consumers, they just force fed them their messages. Now they have to engage them, earn their trust, before trying to sell them. Is this the dawn of UX (user experience) media planning?”

This week, the 8th annual Advertising Week confab convenes in New York and most of the media pooh bahs expect advertising spending to grow modestly in 2012 and 2013. Tim Jones, CEO of ZenithOptimedia thinks the quadrennial effect of 2012 presidential elections and London Olympic games will give media sellers a lift and Russ Sapienza, senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers said most major advertisers still want to sell products in a slow-growth economy. They don’t want to “take [media] money off the table” even when they may put the brakes on major capital investments like factories and infrastructure.

Online display shifting from direct response to branding tool

A number of panelist indicated that the “wow” factor of new ad technology is wearing off and now we’re back to focusing on content—what you actually put inside all those cool ad spaces and time slots. While many media buyers still cling to clicks, impressions and conversions to measure performance. But the more important metrics often point to return on ad spend, online searches for brand names, product recall, and sales.

New research from the online agency Collective indicates that that online display advertising continues to shift from a direct-response form of advertising to branding media.

"The Digital Advertising 2011: A Portrait of Conflict" study released by Collective finds that 57 percent of agencies believe the majority of their display objectives are to build the brand, yet only 11 percent cite ad creative as critical to the campaign's success. Still, three in five (60%) agencies cite brand recall and intent to purchase as the most important measures of online success. However, clicks and conversions remain the key criteria agencies say they use to evaluate media, according to the Collective study.

Want folks to see your Videos? Research says viewers embrace tablets, more than smartphones and social media

A new PwC study finds that consumers increasingly embrace alternative screens to watch TV shows and movies. Nearly three in five surveyed consumers (58%) said they spend more time now viewing movies and TV shows online than they did a year ago. "This was further validated in qualitative discussions, where consumers confirmed that they spend more time using their Internet-connected devices, especially iPads," stated the PwC report. The study emphasized that people considered tablets a "wholly different mobile viewing experience" compared to smartphones, given screen size. Less than one-quarter (23%) had an interest in watching premium video on smartphones. PwC said the lack of enthusiasm for mobile video is consistent with research it has done over the last 18 months.

The research also noted growing interest from a year ago in cloud-based media storage offerings. The idea of a digital locker for music, shows, movies or other content especially appealed to more mature audiences, people in their late-30s to mid-40s, given their understanding of storage technology. Younger people were also intrigued, but had concerns about pricing.

The PwC study found social media was the channel people were least willing to pay extra for to obtain premium content, in part because there's typically no charge for using most social networks. Two-thirds of survey participants said they wouldn't pay anything to watch movies and TV via social properties. But because distribution through social media is still nascent, the consulting firm suggested there is still an opportunity for Hollywood studios and TV networks to leverage Facebook and other social sites.


Friday, September 09, 2011

Let’s Not Confuse Job Creation With Need to Get Work Done on Cusp of 9/11

US slips to 5th on world competitiveness scale. Obama jobs plan holds opportunities for marketers

As we tap out this post, U.S. stocks are down about 3 percent today wiping out a brief rally earlier in the week. Experts point to fresh euro-zone sovereign-debt worries, the surprise resignation of an ECB board member and concerns about Obama's jobs plan unveiled on national TV last night. Let’s not confuse “concerns” with “uncertainty” about the plan, which sounded pretty good to us, if you don’t worry about how to pay for it.

At the core of his plan are two cuts in the payroll tax — one for employers and one for employees —The employee cut would reduce the tax to 3.1 percent of income instead of the 4.2 percent negotiated last year. If passed, it will put money in people’s pockets quickly and increase consumer demand. As marketers, you need to be ready to pounce on this.

For employers, the plan would halve the payroll tax for most small and medium-size businesses and would provide an incentive for hiring by temporarily removing the tax for new employees (and on raises for existing ones). Companies would also get a $4,000 tax credit for hiring anyone out of work for more than six months. Unemployment insurance would be extended for five million people. We were also encouraged by proposals to continue unemployment benefits for those legitimately starting new businesses. The dream of a safe steady corporate (or government) job, with benefits and a pension is fast fading into the rearview mirror and not likely to come back.

We’re hoping this crisis gets us back to our entrepreneurial roots and makes it easier for small businesses and independent contractors to be part of the mainstream—not outliers who continue to be treated as second class citizens by lending institutions and healthcare providers. More and more work in our service driven economy is going to be project-based, not permanent and we all need to learn how to hustle.

Again, you need to be ready to pounce on this pent up demand because the surge may not be sustainable, but it will be a surge nonetheless.

U.S. slips to 5th on world competitiveness scale

The United States is slipping and emerging markets are improving, but European economies still dominate the list of the most competitive economies in the world, according to a World Economic Forum report released Wednesday.

For the third consecutive year, Switzerland ranked first in the forum’s annual competitiveness survey, which assesses countries based on 12 categories including innovation, infrastructure and the macroeconomic environment. The US, which topped the list in 2008, continued its decline, also for the third year in a row. The weaker performance was attributed to economic vulnerabilities as well as “some aspects of the United States’ institutional environment,” notably low public trust in politicians and concerns about government inefficiency.

OUR TAKE: Unacceptable--regardless of whether or not you believe in the methodology of the survey.

The results show that while competitiveness in advanced economies has stagnated over recent years, it has improved in many emerging markets, the Geneva-based forum said.
“Much of the developing world is still seeing relatively strong growth, despite some risk of overheating, while most advanced economies continue to experience sluggish recovery, persistent unemployment and financial vulnerability, with no clear horizon for improvement,”
Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the forum, said in a statement. China, ranked 26th and up one place from a year earlier, was the highest placed of the large developing economies. Among the other major emerging economies, South Africa was 50th, Brazil 53rd, India 56th and Russia 66th.

The rankings take into account 12 categories: institutions; infrastructure; economic environment; health and primary education; higher education and training; goods market efficiency; labor market efficiency; financial market development; technological readiness; market size; business sophistication; and innovation. The deck should really be stacked in our favor.

What the business gurus suggest

A recent Wall Street Journal CEO Council
roundtable of business leaders had some interesting suggestions for getting America back to work. For your convenience, we stripped the corporate PR spin to serve up some nuggets to ruminate on over this weekend of self-reflection.

No surprise, the CEOs want lower corporate taxes in the U.S., which has among the highest tax corporate tax rates in the world, and a moratorium or a rollback of business regulation.
"The government needs to be a better partner with the business world," said Magellan Health Services CEO Rene Lerer, echoing a sentiment expressed by many.
Yet the CEOs also exhibited a practical streak that is often absent from the Washington debate, and a willingness to embrace compromise. Terry Marks, president and chief executive of The Pantry Inc., which operates convenience stores that sell gasoline, even suggested an increase in the gas tax "to invest in transportation infrastructure."

"We have to confront reality," wrote Roger Wood, chief executive of Dana Holdings Inc., the auto-parts company. "Political infighting and seemingly disparate objectives...are keeping the U.S. from finding real solutions to real problems."

The members of the CEO Council, which includes global companies some of which are domiciled abroad, generally agreed that indebted U.S. consumers can no longer drive economic growth in the U.S., and impetus will need to come from developing countries. As a result, they urged the U.S. to embrace global free trade, and make changes that will encourage the growth of export industries here. Many of their recommendations focused on developing human capital as the key to global competitiveness.

"Create more charter schools and teaching jobs for young graduates," wrote Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer. "Train more engineers and German-quality skilled labor." Several also called for reform of the immigration system, to allow more skilled professionals to live and work in the U.S.

Encouraging innovation in the U.S. was also a common theme

Klaus Kleinfeld, chairman and CEO of Alcoa Inc. called on the U.S. to "reignite innovation" by creating regional alliances that join local governments, universities and investors to spark new business creation, and to invest in "research and development clusters" in areas like clean energy and life sciences. He and others also recommended an overhaul of the patent system, to reduce backlogs and address inefficiencies and the growing problem of "patent trolls."

Several of the CEOs also counseled patience. Deleveraging, they pointed out, takes time. "Slowdowns are to be expected after the rapid pace of growth in the world's economies over the past couple of decades, and businesses should take advantage of the time to re-focus on the basics and prepare for the resumption of growth," wrote Jack Ma, CEO of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese Internet company. "It's like Tai Chi [the Chinese martial art]—sometimes you need to go slow in order to go fast again."

Klaus Kleinfeld, CEO, Alcoa Inc said ."Confidence is like the air the economy needs to grow and thrive. We need a positive, forward-leaning message from the president—and business leaders—aimed at the real challenge: improving American competitiveness and fostering growth and innovation."

Brent Saunders, CEO, Bausch & Lomb Inc. quipped: "Institute a lower corporate tax rate to encourage domestic investment including incentives to invest capital and conduct research in the United States. The U.S. corporate tax rate is on average ten percentage points higher than other world economies, which is a key factor in driving corporate investment overseas."

Jack Ma, CEO, Alibaba Group: "Put your trust in young people and in small businesses. Young people will bring the new ideas an innovations that will create a brighter future. Small businesses are the backbones of the world's economies in terms of employment, tax base and overall contribution to society, and in some cases they are tomorrow's big companies."

Rene Lerer, M.D., CEO, Magellan Health Services: "The government needs to be a better partner with the business world. There needs to be a concerted effort to create jobs throughout the country through a governmental-private partnership. The corporate community needs predictability and support. If we can move forward with the philosophy of "no surprises" with clear and predictable guidelines and support that would go a long way."

George C. Halvorson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente: "Health care costs are damaging the total economy and destroying government budgets. We spend twice as much money buying care as any other country on the planet... We need to significantly improve the processes of care delivery to the point where we get better care for less money than we spend now. "

Bold talk and great ieas. Can they back it up when the quarterly pressure’s on to deliver the numbers they need to appease their analysts and stakeholders?


Friday, September 02, 2011

Smart Marketers Find Opportunities in Slow-Growth/No-Growth Economy

Thought leadership, content marketing leads the way when already long sales cycle gets even longer. QR codes can help, but no one size fits all solution.

Today’s ho-hum Labor Department report for August show the U.S. economy neither added nor lost jobs during the month, the worst performance since last September. Cuts in the public sector entirely offset the private sector's gain of 17,000 jobs. Figures from earlier months were also cut, due largely to steeper cuts by government. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent. The economy does have some bright spots: Weekly filings for jobless claims remain relatively steady rather than signaling a pickup in layoffs. Sure, spending activity has slowed, but consumers boosted their spending ahead of the August maelstrom of events. And businesses, while nervous, haven't panicked in a way that would create a self-reinforcing downward spiral.

Government stats show the private sector actually added an average of 83,000 jobs over the past three months. That ain’t going to turn the economy around but, economists say the pace suggests continued slow growth ahead.

Home prices and consumer spending show signs of life

The S&P/Case Schiller Home Price Index
increased 3.6 percent in the April-June quarter and consumer spending in July rose 0.8 percent-- its fastest rate in five months. Economists pointed to strong demand for motor vehicles which shows confidence to make significant, fairly long term purchases. OUR TAKE: If nothing else that should ease some concerns that we’re sliding into another recession. You don’t need to be a PhD economist to know we’re simply stuck in a slow-growth, frustrating, wait-and-see, spin your wheels, don’t-take-on-any-big risks economy. It doesn’t mean folks (and companies) aren’t spending. It DOES mean the sales cycle and purchase consideration cycle is longer. That’s where thought leadership and content marketing comes in as we’ve pointed out in earlier posts.

New data on content marketing/thought leadership

More than 90 percent of marketers believe content marketing is effective at helping them achieve their search engine optimization (SEO) goals according to a new benchmarking study from research firm Marketing Sherpa and Internet Marketing Report maintains that “content marketing is quickly becoming the most effective way to ramp up business on the web,” especially with regard to SEO, Email and social media. The Marketing Sherpa report says content marketing is most effective when in Educates, Builds Trust and Speaks to Success. Help prospects solve problems

If nothing else, your prospects are looking for information that will solve their problems, boost their business and make their lives better. Sherpa researchers report that the 5 most effective forms of content marketing are the tried and true ones:
· White papers
· Newsletters
· Survey data
· Blogs
· FAQs

QR Codes Best in Magazines, Newspapers & Packaging
Young males affluent most likely to jump on QR bandwagon

A new comScore study on mobile QR (Quick Response) code scanning readable by smartphones, found that 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device. Who’s scanning the most on their mobile devices? Researchers, no surprise, said it’s the young, male, affluent audience: male (60.5% of code scanning audience), skew toward ages 18-34 (53.4%) and have a household income of $100k or above (36.1%).

More than half of all QR code scanners were between the ages of 18-34. Those between the age of 25-34 were twice as likely as the average mobile user to engage in this behavior, while 18-24 year olds were 36% more likely than average to scan. More than 1 of every 3 QR code scanners had a household income of at least $100,000, representing both the largest and most over-represented income segment among the scanning audience.Among mobile users who scanned a QR code on their mobile devices in June, 58 percent did so from their home, while 39.4 percent did so from a retail store and 24.5 percent did so from a grocery store.

The most popular source of a scanned QR code was a printed magazine or newspaper, with nearly half scanning QR codes from this source. Product packaging was the source of QR code scanning for 35.3 percent of the audience, while 27.4 percent scanned a code from a website on a PC and 23.5 percent scanned codes from a poster/flyer/kiosk.

So as we slog through this slow-growth economy, keep experimenting with new ways to drive your message home, but remember patience, and disciplined persistence will keep you top of mind with prospects—and content marketing that educates, builds trust and speaks to success will get you in the door.

Happy Labor Day.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogging Remains Top B2B Content Marketing Tactic

Whatever is old is new again. Timeliness and relevance still reigns in this instant message, zero-attention span environment.

What’s the top B2B content channel to support your primary marketing objectives? Facebook? Twitter? Youtube? Webinars? Actually it’s blogging, the good old fashioned workhorse of business thought leadership, according to a new Focus Research report on the challenges and priorities of B2B marketers.

According to researchers, nearly two in five (39%) B2B marketers cited Blog Posts as their No. 1 type of content to support their primary marketing objectives. Webinars and Virtual Events came in next, cited by 38 percent of respondents, followed by Industry Whitepapers (31%), Videos (23%) and Data-Driven Research Reports (20%).

OUR TAKE: This research shouldn’t surprise you. In today’s fragile “wait and see” business climate, sales cycles have gotten longer. That’s increased the need to keep your prospects engaged during the consideration phase of the sales cycle. To that end, smart marketers are providing valuable content to decision-makers and influencers at their target customers. Blogs have been particularly successful as they can be updated and delivered much faster than a webinar, video or white paper—but with a lot more “meaty content” than a banal twitter post or Facebook “like.”

Blogs drive traffic and search results

Hubspot’s latest study shows that the number of companies actively blogging has grown to 65 percent today from 48 percent in 2009. Here’s why. Researchers found that companies that blog have 55 percent more visitors, 97 percent more inbound links and 434 percent more indexed pages than companies that don’t blog.

But, I’m not a writer

You don’t have to be a journalist—or hire one on staff—to create a meaningful blog for customers. You just need to show customers you understand their pain points and can help them solve their problems. If you understand your market, you’ll never run out of material. You can alternate an opinion post one week with a customer testimonial the next week, with an employee (or product) spotlight the next week with a short how-to article the next. Still not enough? Then try linking out to articles or research in the trade publications your prospects follow and then comment on the article with your authoritative spin on whether you agree or disagree with the findings.

“Blogs are a great way to get your name out there as a thought leader—and search engines love them, Bill Sheridan told us over coffee the other day. Bill is the editor and electronic communications manager of the Maryland Association of CPAs a very progressive professional society when it comes to connecting with members in this electronic age.

So don’t worry about being a writer, or even a hotshot blogger. Just be the expert in your target niche and if nothing else, be the best friend of your customers, prospects and decision-influencers at your target companies. Give them some ammunition to convince their boss, CFO or board and they’ll be your advocate for life.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Don’t Sweat the Stock Market, Sovereign Debt crisis or Jobs Report

There’s lots of work to be done and companies are spending money. They’re just not hiring full-timers to do it. Be wary of over-weighting your marketing portfolio on Facebook.

It’s a lazy, muggy Saturday in August. Like millions of American’s we’re headed to the airport, but not for vacation. We’re on our way to a hot, landlocked Midwestern city for the start of a client’s biggest annual convention. That’s right. It kicks off on the first Saturday in August, goes full tilt first thing Sunday morning and extends only into Monday for most attendees. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but more and more B2B event organizers have realized that to attract a crowd in this zero-job-security economy, they’ve got to minimize the amount of time attendees spend out of the office. And they better stress the educational and business development parts of the conference, and de-emphasize the aura of a drunken social junket.

We’re not going to spend much time here re-hashing yesterday’s jobs report and the roller coaster week on Wall Street. From a glass half full perspective, it wasn’t so much the 120,000 new people added to American payrolls last month, it was the breadth of the new jobs, as many sectors—not just one or two-- showed some initial signs of hiring activity. Are we worried about the bloodbath on Wall Street which essentially wiped out the entire year’s worth of gains in 2011? Not so much. The market has long been decoupled from the overall economy as corporate earnings are more a factor of (a) low interest rates; (b) relatively easy access to credit and (c) the ability to sustain operations with fewer employees which improves the bottom line.

NOTE: None of the aforementioned factors are sustainable in the long term—especially doing more with less, as frustrated underappreciated workers will bolt for the doors when the job market eventually improves. While many are concerned about the debt ceiling right now, we’re more concerned about the “Great Brain Drain” that will eventually devastate companies who don’t start taking better care of their burned out talent.

OUR TAKE: If you’re a savvy B2B marketer, business are being very selective about how they spend their dollars for advertising, capital improvements, technology and raw materials, but they ARE spending—and they’re doing so at a healthier clip than individual American consumers. Our advice, be just as selective about who you target and fortunately there are a great many tools out there to help you stay hyper focused on the best prospects for new business.

If you’re waiting for us to start trumpeting the merits of mobile and social media, you’ll be disappointed. There are hundreds of thousands of other blogs you can spend time with. We just want you to be smart about how you use these widely publicized, albeit hard to measure tools. And just like the financial advisors whose balanced portfolio approach will successfully guide their clients through the latest financial crisis, you don’t want your marketing portfolio too heavily invested in any single channel.

Face the facts about Facebook

New research indicates that Facebook shouldn’t automatically be the linchpin of your social media strategy. Data from ROI Research, Inc. found that companies who actively use social media found Twitter more effective than Facebook for getting your customers/followers to talk about your product or service, recommend it to friends and buy it. ROI researchers found Twitter to be 13 percent more likely than Facebook to induce followers to attend your promotional or sponsored event; 12 percent more likely to talk about your company or product; 6 percent more likely to recommend your company or product and 12 percent more likely to link to an ad for your company or product.

And that’s not all. Upstart recently unseated Facebook as the No.1 social media site for referring traffic to other website, according to the web analytics firm, StatCounter. If you haven’t checked it out yet, is a search engine that finds and recommends videos, articles and other web-based content to you based upon your tastes and the interests of your peers.

Finally, a Smartbrief poll on Social Media found that marketers and others interested in social media in business say their companies have not lost money because of social media, but more than 25 percent said they “spent too much on maintaining a social presence for the level of return we’re seeing.” Another 3 percent said they lost money because of legal issues, leakage of sensitive information, or brand damage.

Bottom line. You need to use the tools that most effectively connect you to your clients, customers and prospects for the long-term. You don’t need to be cool for the sake of being cool. Don’t be afraid to experiment. But just like investors who chase the latest fad, marketers who chase the latest cool communication tools without carefully weighing its merits and pitfalls will get burned in the long run.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finishing What You Start

What U.S. military and women’s soccer team can learn from savvy marketers. Hiring trends optimistic for digital media. Speed and innovation key.

For better or worse, it’s that time of year when vacations, out-of-office replies and steamy summer weather conspire to slow down the pace of business decision-making worldwide, even in the U.S. For most of us here at HB, it’s the most stressful time of year, because we worry we’re overlooking something or just plain not trying hard enough when the phone’s not ringing off the hook and frantic emails aren’t clogging our inboxes.

Other folks—the smart ones—take this opportunity to catch their breath and contemplate where their businesses are going, what could be going better and what could be done more efficiently.

Thanks to the ease of social media, online video and virtual events, our guess is that there have been a record number of new media initiatives started in both the corporate and not-for-profit world. But, rather than really analyzing what’s working and not-working well, most organizations just keep launching new initiatives to show they’re cool, up-to-speed and always in touch with their customers, clients and constituents. Of course, constant startup, without the discipline of mid-course corrections, much less finishing, will simply drain your energy, your resources and your organization’s patience and take you off your core mission. Either that, or a cynical CFO, VC or IT person asks to see some measure of return on resources expended. At that point, most innovators throw in the towel…or start something new.

Soccer, military and finishing

If you saw Sunday’s heartbreaking World Cup overtime loss by the U.S. women’s soccer team to Japan, you know what we mean. How many times did the commentators and even U.S. national team coach, Pia Sundhage use the term “finishing” or lack thereof? The U.S. kept blowing scoring chances throughout the scoreless first half and through much of the second half. Then every time they managed to bang one through the back of the net, the plucky Japanese squad would score the equalizer a few minutes later. When it came down to overtime penalty kicks, you could tell on the Americans’ faces they knew they would be toast.

We’ll keep our political views out of this forum, but, we can only sustain so much “nation-building” in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn regions around the globe at any given time. Without the resources and strategy to finish what we started, we’ll have nothing to show for all the lost lives and billions of wasted dollars across the globe….kind of like a website with lots of outdated “news”, and old links leading nowhere.

Upbeat hiring trends for digital media professionals

Ed Koller, Managing Partner of Howard-Sloan-Koller Group wrote to clients on Monday that “innovation” was the dominant word in business last year. “But know we know that innovation alone is no longer enough. Speed is the overarching mandated. Speed to market for products; speed to hire for talent.”

HSK says despite the gloomy job market nationwide, there is a “staggering volume of demand” for digital product development, content development, sales and marketing professionals. As New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman wrote last week, companies “are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people —people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.”

Finishing what you start (video)

So if you’re an employee, manager or business owner, how do you make sure you and your teams are ready to really finish what they start? We recommend this video by best-selling author and futurist, Seth Godin who argues we don’t need people to be more creative. We need people to keep thrashing and have the courage to ship—when they say they’re going to ship.

WARNING: The vid’s about 18 minutes long. Don’t view it unless you have time to watch it all the way through and give it your undivided attention.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

End of Space Shuttle Program Doesn’t Mean End of American Innovation

VC investments way up and B2B advertisers look to third wave of advertising

We’re no rocket scientists here, but today and July 20 will mark historic milestones for the U.S. space program. In case you missed it, today was the final “spacewalk” by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. And when the shuttle lands on July 20 at Kennedy Space Center, it will be on the 42nd anniversary of the first moon landing. For many of us born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk was one of our earliest memories of actually paying attention to something on the evening news. This month, as the space program goes into early retirement, it signals our generation’s official descent into middle age. But, we don’t seem to be the only ones running out of steam. That’s just not acceptable to us here.

As Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote the other day, the shuttle was the “centerpiece of our country’s gaudily ambitious space adventures. The shuttle program was a pre-eminent symbol of our belief that there were literally no limits to where we could go and no boundaries to what we could accomplish, so long as we hitched our ingenuity to our imagination and marshaled the requisite will. The program’s end carries the force of cruel metaphor, coming at a time when limits are all we talk about. When we have no stars in our eyes.”

Yesterday, a sobering U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report was released. According to the Chamber, almost two-thirds—64 percent—of small-business executives surveyed said they weren't expecting to add to their payrolls in the next year and another 12 percent planned to cut jobs. Just one in five (19%) said they would expand their work forces. This comes after a Labor Department report Friday showed employers added few jobs in June, and unemployment rose to 9.2 percent. The Small Business Administration says small businesses, defined as companies with fewer than 500 workers, employ about half of the workers in the private sector. In the Chamber's survey of 1,409 executives, conducted by Harris Interactive, small businesses were defined as firms with revenue of $25 million or less.
A Gallup/USA Today poll conducted in late April found that 55 percent of Americans considered it unlikely that children today would have better lives than their parents, while only 44 percent considered it likely. Those responses were the most negative, by far, over the last quarter-century, and they undercut a central tenet of American optimism.

And 39 percent of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterized that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. That was a marked increase from 28 percent who said so last fall.

The President talks a great deal about charting “the frontiers of innovation,” but his administration doesn’t seem to have a plan and maybe we shouldn’t leave it to the government to do it for us.

Our take: The U.S. space program was created not out of scientific curiosity but out of national security to keep pace with the Russian space program. Right now we have a different kind of threat and that’s economic threat of China, India and other fast developing economics. We need to have an economic/innovative version of NASA right now……education, starting companies and smart, efficient marketing.

3rd Wave for advertising

If you get a free moment, take a look at J. Brooke Aker’s piece from Online Media Daily about the maturity of display advertising. Aker also quotes Google’s Neal Mohan who’s argues we are just now entering the 3rd Wave of digital advertising maturation that futurist Alvin Toffler predicted in the 1980s. Apparently we have moved from media explosion (Internet, ubiquitous connectivity and multiple devices) to technology that makes ads efficient and makes media pay, to a user-centric 3rd wave.

Our take: We’re encouraged by this assessment because this is where consumers have much more say -- in the ads they skip, ads they replay or their preferences for ads. Amen to that.

Venture Capital on the Rise

Total capital raised by U.S. venture firms in the first half of this year hit $8.14 billion, that’s a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Dow Jones. Meanwhile, the National Venture Capital Association said capital fundraising during the first half of 2011 totaled $10.2 billion from 76 funds, a 67 percent increase by dollars compared to the first half of 2010.
Next week we’ll look at how content marketing is challenging traditional advertising for smart B2B marketers.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Mid Year Review: Companies Thriving, Wage Earners and Homeowners Still Suffering

How smart B2B marketers thrive in this schizophrenic economic climate

U.S. stocks rose sharply today, on pace for their biggest weekly gain in a year. Strong readings of manufacturing activity lifted spirits ahead of the long holiday weekend and investors may feel confident that no major “fireworks” are forthcoming from the euro zone and Greece debt crisis to ruin their barbecues and parades. Industrial, financial and tech stocks have led the rally, which is good news for many of you readers who work in—or sell into—those sectors. The market registered sharp gains after data released by the Institute of Supply Management showed the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded briskly in June. The ISM's manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 55.3 in June from 53.5 in May. Experts say readings above 50 indicate expanding activity.

If you’re wondering how the financial markets and corporate profits can be so high at a time when the jobless rate, housing market and energy prices are in the dumps, researchers at Northeastern University may have some clues. In their newly released study, (PDF file) “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the Northeastern economists found that since the recovery began in June 2009 following a deep 18-month recession, “corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent” of that growth. The study, said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery. The study called that $27 billion loss in aggregate wages and salaries during the seven quarters after the recovery began “the first ever such decline in any post-World War II recovery.”

“Aggregate employment still has not increased above the trough quarter of 2009, and real hourly and weekly wages have been flat to modestly negative,” the report concludes. “The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders.”

Our Take: Consumers are still very pessimistic about their home values and job security, so if you depend on luxury goods, discretionary spending for travel and entertainment, then you’ll have to pick and choose your marketing spots very carefully. But, if you’re targeting decision makers in the heavy equipment or large corporate sector, then you need to get on their radar ASAP as they’re setting budgets for long-term capital expenditures right now.

Here are some key marketing trends to watch for the second half of this year

First two non-events: the new HP tablet and the Zynga billion dollar IPO. These are not game changers as much as late arriving “me too’s.” Don’t be fooled by the hype

Location infiltrates the advertising market

Location-based advertising is set to triple its percentage of mobile advertising in the next four years. The increase will partially be due to the US’s high adoption rates of mobile devices with GPS capabilities. Revenue for this advertising market is projected to increase ten-fold in the same time period, according to Pyramid Research.

Our Take: Consumers will have greater access to this type of advertising in the near future because of technology progression. Advertising companies at the front of location-based services could see much higher demand from businesses in the near future.

eReaders on the rise, tablets cool off

The ownership of eReaders has surpassed that of tablets largely due to price differences and improvements in technology. The entry price for eReaders undercuts tablets by a few hundred dollars, and eReaders are taking up a share of the tablet market as they begin to incorporate internet-based applications, like browsing the web and checking mail.

Our Take: The rise in eReader adoption will lead to a shift in support and resources from companies appealing to consumers. In part because of their lower price point and lesser technology, eReaders are cheaper to develop applications for than tablets. As many industries are probably in a hurry to try and capture the market opening caused by the iPad craze, it actually may be wiser to focus on the rapidly expanding eReader market. eReaders are also more literature-focused, which could lead to higher adoption rates in the corporate world. Additionally, recent reviews for products such as the nook and kindle have been raving according to CNET , while their price factor helps them beat out the iPad in a recent CNET head to head comparison.

A new approach to banner ads

New Google studies show that the average rate of users who click on ads is 0.1 percent. A separate study, conducted by Real Media, shows that the main reason people ignore ads is because they did not want to leave the web page they were currently on. In light of this information, startup Adkeeper has put a new spin on ads, one that increases that click rate by 34 times—that’s right, 34 times higher! Adkeeper is making advertisements ‘less interruptive’ as company founder, Scott Kurnit, told the NY Times on Tuesday.

Our Take: Although the articles take on adkeeper is heavily skewed towards entertainment and consumer-oriented industries (and not B2B), there is still a strong possibility that Adkeeper can help businesses. If a company is targeting the right audience and advertising on the right sites, then consumers will save these ads. For example, many may be reading an article and see an ad that they do not necessarily want to click on right away. However, if the ad appeals just a tiny bit to them and their industry, they can easily save and go back to it later.

Have a great Independence Day Weekend and remember what a great (and resilient) country this is despite all our current challenges.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Signs of a Turnaround?

IPOs, venture capital and philanthropy up. Why smart companies respond ASAP to online customer complaints

IPO Market

Just when you thought a double dip recession was on the horizon, signs of optimism are emerging. I noticed a significant drop in gas prices on a weekend trip through the Northeast Corridor. The Dow seems to have found a support level at 12,000 (up over 100 points again today), despite ongoing agita over the debt crisis in Greece. Technology IPOs have generated nearly $330 million in fees for major banks and brokerages houses according to a New York Times report yesterday. That’s the most since 2000 and nearly 10 times what they generated for a comparable period last year. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investors have poured nearly $6 billion into early stage startups the first three months of this year, that’s up 14 percent from the first three months of 2010.

Charitable giving on the rise

Another study that caught our eye was from the philanthropic front. Charitable giving recovered somewhat last year, according to new estimates by the Giving USA Foundation, but experts are predicting that this year will present more challenges to nonprofit fund-raisers. Individuals, companies and philanthropic institutions made gifts and pledges totaling an estimated $290.89 billion in 2010, an increase of 2.1 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis over a revised estimate of $285 billion the year before. The increase was the first since 2007, when the recession started and led to the biggest decline in giving in more than 40 years.

The power of responding to your online complaints

A new Harris Interactive study confirmed what we’ve been preaching for years—you’ve got to deal with angry customers/members/subscribers ASAP now matter how steamed they are. Here’s why. Researchers found that among customers who got a response from a company after complaining about them online (or on social media):

* 34 percent deleted their negative review
* 33 percent turned around and posted a positive review
* 18 percent turned into loyal customers

As the old saying goes. It’s 10 times easier to keep an existing customer happy than to find a new customer. Thanks to social media and the web, your customers are better armed today than ever before. The Harris findings should be posted over every call center from Nebraska to Mumbai. Smart organizations who heed them will be rewarded handsomely down the road.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Economy Hinting at Double Dip, But Hiring Strong in Tech, Financial Arena

Big companies more likely than small business to weather latest storm. Also, why great writing still matters for B2B. How this impacts you.

It may be too soon to predict a return to the days of “irrational exuberance,” but you have to scratch your head when social media companies with questionable financials are leading the IPO market back to life and the equity markets end a six-week slide yesterday because retail sales only went down by 0.2 percent.

Most of us are a lot smarter than we were in the late 1990s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be lured into the financial equivalent of Weinerian temptation. We know it’s wrong, but we can’t help ourselves. Or you can put a positive spin on this less-than-rational exuberance. How? Maybe we just want this protracted downturn to end so badly that we’ll do just about anything to jumpstart it. Can you say Obamanomics?

Food and gas prices remain high, unemployment is inching back over 9 percent and Americans’ equity in their homes has shrunk to nearly 38 percent, nearing the lowest percentage since World War II, according to a Federal Reserve report this week. For some perspective, it was about 61 percent in 2001. What’s more, home prices have fallen by a third since their 2006 peak, reaching their lowest level since 2003, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of U.S. home prices through May 31. What’s more, the Federation of Independent Business, a trade group representing small business in America, just released its worse monthly hiring survey in eight months. If you sell to small business, those budgets are likely to remain tighter than a portly New Jersey Governor’s belt buckle for some time to come.

Despite this generally depressing news, hiring in the technology and financial services industries, where many of you are engaged has been robust. The U.S marketing director for a well-known online career site told me last week that both job postings and hiring of seasoned execs in financial services is coming back strong and is “white hot” for those in the technology sector. Also, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed again in April which means that’s now two consecutive months in which American companies sold more goods overseas than were imported. Also, last week’s Business Roundtable CEO survey showed that larger companies are more likely to expand their workforces than shrink them in the next six months. Why? They’re more likely to be sitting on piles of cash, they have better access to credit and more exporting capabilities.

Our Take: If you sell to consumers, then there’s still rough sledding ahead, because lack of job security and inability to use homes as ATM machines will keep your customers tight-gripped on their wallets and purses. But, in the B2B sector, companies are looking at the long-term picture, as evidenced by strong 6-figure hiring in the tech and financial sector and bolstering infrastructure and capital expenditures. For instance, a new Commerce Department report said U.S. companies sold more computers, heavy machinery and telecommunications equipment in April, especially to foreign markets. That pushed exports to a record high for the second straight month and narrowed the trade deficit for the first time since December.

Great writing still matters for business marketers

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a great piece by Droga5 chairman, Davi Droga, about the importance of great copy writing in today’s short-attention span, twitter era. “The truth is that good copywriting paved the way for the tweet long before Twitter was actually invented—but who needs all those characters?” he asks.

Social media impact on business

Researchers are finding that social media is great for generating exposure for your business, increasing traffic to your website and improving your search engine rankings, but not so effective for generating leads, increasing sales or reducing marketing expenses. A new study of 3,342 marketers conducted by Social Media Examiner found that while 88 percent of respondents said social media generated exposure for their business, 72 percent said it increased traffic and 62 percent agreed it helped their search engine rankings. On the flip side, only 43 percent of marketers said social media increased their sales, just 49 percent said it cut marketing costs and 51 percent said it generated quality leads.

Why clarity is the new cool

Finally, we recommend this pithy new post by Forbes Chief Product Officer, Lewis D’Vorkin about the importance of clarity in this hyper-cluttered information age.

“Start with clarity, then come up with cool, he says. “If you don’t, you end up with new but incoherent.” We couldn’t agree more.

As regular readers of this blog know, throughout this economic downturn we haven’t wavered from our position: Be smart, stay the course, keep your marketing and product pipeline full at all times, and you’ll always be ready to pounce on new opportunities. That’s a lot more fun (and financially rewarding) than being a hot idea- or hot IPO) chaser.


Monday, May 23, 2011

LinkedIn and Tablets Increase Decisions for B2B Marketers

With consumers and small business on one side and ‘tortured” corporate customers on the other, how much longer will users put up with forced updates and interminable boot up time? Google and Apple reinvent computing and computer retailing. Has Mars/Venus gender battle moved to tablets?

Whether or not you think last week’s lofty IPO and post-offering “pop” for professional networking platform LinkedIn signaled a new “tech bubble about to burst,” the head of a large engineering and technology society told me Friday that he was encouraged by the amount of “let’s try and see how it goes” innovation he’s from emerging media, information and technology companies. This ability to innovate, react, evolves and correct early stumbles may be the key to success in the next decade and beyond. Meanwhile, the old guard seems to be drifting further and further back in the rear view mirror.

Hewlett-Packard Co. reduced its 2011 outlook and warned of weaker results in its current quarter in a hastily arranged earnings call last week, a day after an email from CEO, Leo Apotheker to his top brass, warning of tough times became public. News of the memo and the revised outlook sent H-P's shares down 9 percent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange. HP’s pessimistic outlook is a result of changes the Palo Alto, Calif., company is making in its services business and poor demand for personal computers among consumers. Apotheker said weak PC sales to consumers is an industry-wide problem due in part to the rise of tablet devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPad. Dell, Acer and Sony among others have been whining a similar tune of late.

In response, HP will soon release its own tablet, dubbed the TouchPad, but it will not only have to contend with Apple’s passionately followed products (and social media army), but with Apple’s incredibly successful retail stores—and Google’s lightweight computing devices, which we’ll get to in a minute.

OUR TAKE: We’re not here to predict who’s going to win the table and smart phone wars, but it’s relevant for B2B marketers to know which types of screens, devices and security environment that your target consumers are spending their time when they receive your messages. And that not only includes tablets and smart phones, but LinkedIn-style social networking platforms for professionals and other busy grownups who don’t have hours of free time on their hands and only post when they something relevant to share (or answer).

Gender impact on tablet adoption

If you’re targeting consumers and small business, it’s increasingly likely you’ll to be reaching decision makers not on clunky PC’s, but on open access, easy to use devices –tablets, iPads, smart phones and “smart” notebooks that boot up quickly, and can easily handle rich media, video, apps, downloads and the like. According to a report in today’s New York Times, based on Forrester Research, the majority of tablet owners are male, while the majority of e-readers (such as Barnes’ and Nobles’ Nook Color) are female. Researchers say this has more to do with desire for simplicity (female) or tech power (men) than it does with color, design and actual reading experience although women supposedly want a more contemplative book-like reading experience and men allegedly want a more multimedia, action-oriented experience. Regardless of preference, consumers and business decision-makers are gravitating toward gadgets that are fast, fun, adaptable, easy to carry and easy to fix (often by you, the end user). And these tend to be the devices that don’t block advertising messages as effectively as most corporate spam filters and firewalls. In exchange for this freedom, recipients of your messaging will demand well-thought out creative that’s targeted, relevant and makes full use multimedia.

Meanwhile Google took another swipe at Microsoft last week when it introduced a new kind of computer called a Chromebook, which stores everything online. Google hopes that the devices, which it says will eliminate the need for software updates and hard drive backups and will boot up within eight seconds, will replace PCs running Microsoft’s Windows software in offices and homes around the world.

OUR TAKE: Users are losing patience with endless Windows updates, interminable bootup times and business applications (spreadsheets, presentations, word processing) that work fine, but get over-engineered every 12 months so users have to keep relearning how to use them. Corporate warriors don’t have much choice in the matter, except to covet their spouses, kids and friends’ devices. But, consumers and small business owners DO have a choice, and they’re overwhelmingly going for portability and simplicity over fortress-like security.

However, if your core decision-makers are still in large organizations, then no matter how many fun, easy to work with gadgets they have at home, they’ll still be at the mercy of command and control IT departments—and that means, slow connectivity, limited multimedia and downloading opportunities.

That affects your creative and your ability to get into targets’ sub-conscious. Here, the main objective is simply to get in the door, not to be eye-catching. Corporate spam filters will flag anything they don’t deem plain vanilla. In this environment, it’s best just to play it straight. Stick with bullet points, features and benefits—forget about storytelling and dazzling techno tricks.

Users tired of being tortured

“Whether it be Microsoft or other OS vendors, I think the complexity of managing your computers is really torturing users out there,” Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder and director of special projects, said recently at the Google I/O developer conference “That’s a flawed model fundamentally. And I think Chromebooks are a new model that doesn’t put the burden of managing your computer on yourself.”

Experts say Google will not have an easy time challenging Microsoft, which dominates the workplace. We think that’s due more to inertia, fear and cozy VAR relationships than it is a result of better products. While Google has bested Microsoft in operating system software for mobile phones, it has taken on Microsoft in the workplace before and failed to budge it, most notably in word processing and spreadsheet software and collaboration tools.

Google says Chromebooks will attract corporate technology buyers because Google automatically updates the Chrome operating system over the Internet and there is no need to back up computers because if they are lost or ruined, all the data exists online. “We’re venturing into a really new model of computing that I don’t think was possible previously, even a few years ago,” Brin purportedly said at Google’s recent user conference, adding that it’s just a much easier way to compute.

Computing in a whole new way

The Chrome operating system, which Google introduced in 2009, does away with desktop software and storing data on a computer. Instead, it is not much more than a browser, and all of a computer user’s information, like documents, photos and e-mail messages, is stored on the Internet, or in “the cloud.” Instead of desktop software like Microsoft Word or iPhoto, people use Web-based software like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365 or Picasa.

Corporate I.T. departments are not known for quickly adopting flashy new products. However, tablet computers with touch screens, like the iPad, are replacing laptops in some workplaces, so the Chromebook may be late to the game. Microsoft has also seen some softness in its sales for its operating system software. Google’s strategy is to go after businesses and schools first. If students get used to a Web-based operating system, they might request it in their offices later on, and if people use it at work, they might decide to buy one for their homes.

The tagline at the end of Google’s promotional video for Chromebooks? “Ready when you are.” So are we. And so should you, if you’re a smart B2B marketer.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Obama Nails Osama. Now ReFocus on the Economa

Take pause to celebrate nation’s military (and social media) milestone. But smart marketers know real worries remain and are picking spots carefully. TV ownership falls in U.S.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the current Administration, the stunning events of Sunday evening’s purported rubout of USA’s public enemy No.1 in Pakistan should give you a sense of…hmmm….if not patriotic pride at least confidence that our legislative and military leaders can honor a highly ambitious and longstanding promise to their citizens. That’s good enough for us (as is the President’s birth certificate). We don’t need to see grisly pictures of the massacre and open-sea burial of al Qaeda's top motivational speaker to know that the job got done quickly, efficiently and with minimal collateral damage.

Well done USA! Now let’s get back to business.

Is the threat of terrorism over? Hardly. At this stage of the game, bin Laden was more of guru consultant than an operative and we should prepare for retaliatory strikes and another spike in fuel prices. Both threats will continue to impact business by making air travel, commuting, shopping and raw materials more expensive and less efficient. The high unemployment rate, lousy housing market and huge disconnect between the stock market and economic conditions aren’t helping.
Our take? Expect another surge in the use of online shopping by consumers and the use of webinars and virtual meetings and conferences by the business community.
Social media in the spotlight

Another facet to this stunning news event was the speed with which millions of ordinary citizens got wind of bin Laden’s demise via social networking—not via the “official” news media and the reassuring voice of a trusted network anchor.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, the mobile devices of 45,000 baseball fans lit up at Sunday’s Phillies-Mets game and chants of U-S-A reverberated throughout Citizens Bank Park before the scoreboard operators or players knew why. Unconfirmed reports — that turned out to be true — of Osama bin Laden’s death circulated widely on social media for about 20 minutes before the talking heads of the major broadcast and cable networks reported news of the raid at 10:45 p.m., about an hour before Mr. Obama’s address from the White House.

While social media is not always reliable and is not a great platform for insight and analysis, it’s the communication tool ideally suited for breaking and sharing news and information and thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices—it’s the “tool” most likely to be used first when someone wants to be in the know (or sharing what they know).

Several reports said Twitter saw the highest sustained rate of posts ever--with an average of 3,440 per second from 10:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET—and there were more than 5 million mentions of Bin Laden on Facebook in the U.S. Text messages and social networks did not only help people get and spread the news about Bin Laden’s death, but they are believed to be significant contributors to the spontaneous gatherings at Ground Zero in NYC and outside the White House in DC. Once the Prez made his announcement, users of Instagram, a photo-sharing application for the iPhone, flooded the service with photos of Obama speaking, snapped from televisions and laptop screens. Soon there were photos of American flags and then photos from the crowds gathered in New York and Washington.

Most of these digital natives are not eschewing conventional news media entirely. They know they’ll get the analysis, commentary and fact-confirmation over time. But, if your media plans are still not aligning your spending with where your target market spends its time, then now is the time to have a serious reality check.

Ownership of TV Sets Falls in the US

Speaking of historic milestones, The Nielsen Company reported yesterday that the number of TV-less homes in the U.S rose for the first time in 20 years and that will have an impact on ratings numbers for all forms of broadcast television. According to Nielsen, virtually every U.S. household (98.9%) had a TV set the last time it checked. Now the number is down to 96.7 percent. While some experts say the drop reflects rising poverty in which some low-income households can no longer afford the cable boxes and digital accoutrements required to watch most channels satisfactorily, a more plausible explanation is that younger people, who’ve grown up with laptops and mobile devices in their hands, are not purchasing conventional TV sets when they get out on their own as they’re so used to gaming and watching their favorite shows and movies from the web.

Our take? Not only will the number of traditional TV households continue to decline, but the number of multi-tasking, attention-divided consumers will continue to rise. Conventional broadcasters and their sponsors still have a long way to go when it comes to targeting their messages to consumers and presenting content at a pace, and uninterrupted form, that will keep them engaged.

The world’s not necessarily getting more complex. It’s just getting smaller and moving faster than we’ve been used to. You can’t possibly keep up with all it all. Trust your friends, colleagues and professional networks to help you out. And when they do, always make sure you return the favor.